When Bradley Manning, the US Army private suspected of handing over classified documents to Wikileaks, was imprisoned, many believed he deserved his fate. Little did he know, however, that he had an ally in Glenn Greenwald, the former civil rights litigator and now investigative journalist, who believes that Manning acted heroically to uncover the injustices of our political system.
On November 2, Greenwald sat down with Salon.com founder David Talbot to discuss his new book, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful, which details how the American elite manipulate the justice system to serve and protect themselves. This fascinating event has become one of the most-watched shows in the last week on FORA.tv, and is currently available on-demand.
Greenwald says constitutional rights throughout American history have always been tested and subsequently reaffirmed through social changes such as the emancipation of slaves, the enfranchisement of women and the advancement of gay rights. But over the last 40 years, the American elite has gradually renounced the principle that everyone is equal under the law. “From the shielding of crimes under Bush by the Obama administration to the refusal to investigate or prosecute industry-wide fraud that precipitated the 2008 financial crisis, there is a prevailing, Orwellian sense that protecting the elite is in the best interests of the entire nation,” he said.
Although political corruption manifested itself under the Nixon administration and in scandals such as the Iran-Contra affair, Greenwald believes that the Bush administration took it to new heights. “We’ve seen abuses of power in the past. What changed under George Bush was 9/11,” he said. “This horrific act was so aggressively exploited by Bush … that it raised the bar of what the citizenry and the political class would tolerate as far as bending or breaking laws to protect the people.”
Greenwald pointed to the media as perpetuating this current level of corruption among America’s elite class. While 50 years ago, journalists were considered to be a part of the working class—a group of “subversives” dedicated to keeping the powerful in check—reporters and anchors are now merely rich employees of large corporations. “Journalists used to deliberately sit on the outside of power as a watchdog of the elite,” he explained. “Now they serve as spokesperson and servant of the elite.”
Aside from manipulating the political system and the media, the members of America’s elite have become so entrenchment that they are “too big to jail,” according to Greenwald. “We’ve created a framework for elite immunity, yet we have one of the harshest criminal justice systems in the world and imprison more of our fellow citizens than any other country on the planet,” he said. “These alarming disparities mean that many white-collar criminals get off scot-free for heinous crimes, while those without means who commit trivial offenses are subjected to the harshest of punishments.”